Lima v. Newark Police Dept., No. 10-1743 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff accepted a Rule 68 offer of judgment in his suit against the Newark Police Department and officers in the amount of $55,000. The offer stated an intention to resolve the litigation "in its entirety." Upon receiving the acceptance, Newark wrote to the judge: "Defendants' Offer of Judgment was for all ... claims .... If the Plaintiff intends to seek costs and attorneys' fees, the Defendants seek immediate relief and clarification." The district court entered judgment for $55,000 and denied plaintiff's request for fees. The Third Circuit remanded for determination of fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988. A valid Rule 68 offer of judgment necessarily includes costs and fees, explicitly or implicitly. When costs are stated explicitly, the offeror is not subject to any additional liability; when the offer is silent as to fees and costs, they must be fixed by the court after acceptance. Extrinsic evidence of subjective intent is not admissible to determine whether a Rule 68 offer includes costs. Use of the catchall phrase "all of Plaintiff's claims" did not explicitly cover fees and costs. Unlike other relief, Sect. 1988 attorney's fees are not compensation for the injury. Their award is uniquely separable from the cause of action.